Junior third-baseman Kyle Seager put the fourth-seeded Tar Heels on the scoreboard early, hitting a two-out, bases-loaded single up the middle for a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Three-time All-America Dustin Ackley made the outcome all but a formality with a three-run bomb over the left field wall to cap a five-run sixth inning that built a 7-0 UNC lead.
Seth Baldwin added a RBI sacrifice fly in the seventh and Garrett Gore ended his career at Boshamer Stadium with a homerun to dead-center field in the top of the ninth inning.
Adam Warren (three runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings) shut down the Pirates' bats for the first seven innings before loading the bases on three straight singles to start the eighth. The senior righty notched his eight strikeout of the day – with just one walk – against his final batter, and then reliever Brian Moran stepped in to close out the series.
East Carolina finally scratched the scoreboard against Moran on a Kyle Roller 4-3 fielder's choice with the bases loaded followed by Brandon Henderson's two-RBI single, but the hole was simply too big for the Pirates to escape.
Freshman All-America Kevin Brandt (9-2) took the loss for the Pirates, giving up three earned runs on six hits in 5.0 innings.
North Carolina will now embark on its eighth overall journey to Omaha, while becoming the first ACC program to reach the College World Series four straight years and only the 10th different team program to make four consecutive trips. The Tar Heels improved to 18-1 at home in the postseason over the past four years, including a 6-1 record in the Super Regional round since 2007.
"I just can't describe the ride that we've been on," UNC head coach Mike Fox told a packed house in his postgame press conference. "I'm so happy for our team and for these guys up here and for Adam and certainly Dustin and Kyle and the guys that more than likely won't be back. It's been a terrific season.
"Off the field, on the field, it's just been the best bunch of kids I could have ever possibly imagined being in the locker room with and sharing this season with. I'm so excited for them and happy that they get to experience Omaha once again."
ECU is now 0-6 all-time in three Super Regional contests.
INSIDE THE GAME
Warren Continues Postseason Tear
Warren was solid, if unspectacular, during North Carolina's 2008 run to the College World Series, posting a 1-1 record in five starts with only one outing lasting through six innings. But the New Bern, N.C. native has proven to be UNC's ace this postseason, notching three victories in three starts.
"Warren today was really impressive," East Carolina second baseman Ryan Wood said. "He was hitting his spots, and if he missed, he was missing a couple balls off, a couple inches off the plate, especially his fastball. He could locate his breaking ball for a strike and put it where he wanted to."
The senior righty has only given up six earned runs and 19 hits in 22 1/3 innings this postseason, thanks to 23 strikeouts against just two walks. Those numbers have to be drawing attention in Major League Baseball war rooms across the country with Tuesday's draft quickly approaching.
On Sunday, Jared Avchen singled into left field to start the third inning for the Pirates, marking the third straight frame that ECU's leadoff hitter reached first base. But Warren shut things down immediately following the catcher's at-bat, retiring 14 of his next 15 batters.
"In the first three innings, the leadoff guy kept getting on, so I was pretty frustrated with that," Warren said. "But just staying mentally focused and just focusing on the next pitch – having that mindset really helps me. Getting that leadoff hitter out is really big for me and then go from there."
ECU Bats Overrated?
Ever since East Carolina's 10th-inning rally past South Carolina on Monday, the media has feasted on the ECU bats vs. UNC arms mantra leading up to this weekend's Super Regional. The Pirates' statistics are no doubt staggering, leading the nation in hits (794) while ranking fourth in runs (561) and seventh in home runs (107).
But while North Carolina's pitching is tested week-in and week-out against elite level ACC competition, East Carolina's bats cannot say the same about its Conference USA opponents.
Only two C-USA members rank in the top-70 nationally in team ERA – Rice (14th – 4.07) and Tulane (46th – 4.65). The Pirates posted 23 runs in two of their six outings against Rice and Tulane, but they only managed 15 runs combined in the other four contests.
Conversely, in early season matchups with Lemoyne, UNC Asheville, Norfolk State and Central Florida, East Carolina tallied 91 runs in those four outings – good for a 22.8-runs-per-game average.
The Pirates have faced the Tar Heels four times this season, totaling nine runs and 29 hits in 36 innings – good for one run every four innings. ECU finished its season 8-14 when scoring 5 runs or less.
East Carolina scattered 10 hits on Sunday, but its opportunities were limited – the Pirates only left three men on base through the first six innings.
"[Not scoring more] is difficult to take, but you've got to give it to North Carolina – they pitched very well," Henderson said.
ECU head coach Billy Godwin was asked during his postgame press conference what the most frustrating part of the series was for him, and his response was an obvious one.
"Probably that we didn't score any more runs than we did," he replied. "We knew we were going to have to score runs coming in here… Just the disappointment in not coming in here and not scoring any more runs and not capitalizing when we had opportunities."